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An Aging World | India's demographic Future

The US Census Bureau and the National Institute on Aging (NIA) has released a report that says thats the world's population aged 65 and above is growing by an unprecedented rate of 800,000 people a month. Italy is the world's 'oldest' country with 18% population above 65.

Indeed, this was possibly the most significant difference even I had noted while traveling outside India. In India we are so used to seeing young people, that the site of large number of old people on the streets looks uncanny. In fact, in India, due to our culture of children supporting their parents - an old person is usually accompanied by another younger person thus blurring the general visibility of old people in public. Hence, when I saw old people, supported on walking sticks, wheelchairs and golf carts - not out for a walk but in the market, shopping all by themselves - it felt strange.

I guess this is just one of the signs of an aging world. Many other, invisible signs are revealed by statistics. According to the American Thinker European Union as a whole has a fertility rate of 1.4 children per woman, which is well below the 2.1 replacement rate. As a result, deaths will start out-numbering births in every member state of the European Union by as early as 2010. Europe already has the highest percentage of people aged 65 and older, and this figure is set to double by 2050.

German demographers predict that by 2030, their country will have 7 million fewer people of working age than today, but 8.5 million more people of retirement age. Many economists say this will spell the end of the European social welfare state as we know it. And because Germany is Europe's largest economy, it serves as the benchmark for Europe as a whole.

However surprisingly, developing countries are aging faster than more developed ones according to the US Census Bureau. Which brings me to the point that started my chain of thought. India is being touted as the next big economy because, apart from other factors, it has currently the world's largest working population. So logically as well as by trends, one would expect India to also have the world's largest aging population in 25-35 years from now. In fact, already more than one-third of the world's oldest people (80 and above) lived in only three countries: China (11.5 million), the United States (9.2 million) and India (6.2 million).

Another important statistic thrown by the US Census Bureau is that disability rates among the older population were declining in developed countries but were likely to increase in developing countries. Quite so, thousands if not millions of old people in India live below the poverty line or marginally above it; they do not enjoy any social security as in developed countries; are not in an employable state, so don't have a regular source of income; being in the lower social strata have no savings to rely on; and are uneducated so are oblivious to the hygienic and medical risks they confront. Logically, they are prone to being disabled in old age than remaining fit.

Clearly, the future of demographics in India is worrisome. Unless we develop a robust social security infrastructure with speed and sensitivity, the future might be gruesome for us. Apart from the numbers, aged population 25-35 years hence will face, alienation from the younger generation of their times (going by the trend globally). More and more people then will be dependent on the state rather than their children for their welfare.

Clearly, a robust Human Development Initiative is not just important today, as I pointed out in an earlier post but essential for a happy and prosperous tomorrow of India.

1 comments to " An Aging World | India's demographic Future "

  1. you are talking like today's TV news analysts ... all numbers ... good question is how much is it going to make a sense to me or you... ;)

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